Simple biophysical model of tumor evasion from immune system control

Alberto D'Onofrio, Armando Ciancio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The competitive nonlinear interplay between a tumor and the host's immune system is not only very complex but is also time-changing. A fundamental aspect of this issue is the ability of the tumor to slowly carry out processes that gradually allow it to become less harmed and less susceptible to recognition by the immune system effectors. Here we propose a simple epigenetic escape mechanism that adaptively depends on the interactions per time unit between cells of the two systems. From a biological point of view, our model is based on the concept that a tumor cell that has survived an encounter with a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) has an information gain that it transmits to the other cells of the neoplasm. The consequence of this information increase is a decrease in both the probabilities of being killed and of being recognized by a CTL. We show that the mathematical model of this mechanism is formally equal to an evolutionary imitation game dynamics. Numerical simulations of transitory phases complement the theoretical analysis. Implications of the interplay between the above mechanisms and the delivery of immunotherapies are also illustrated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number031910
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 12 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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